DO YOU BELIEVE THE CARROT OR THE RABBIT? SULEIMAN KERIMOV TRIES TO SELL SHARES IN THE WORLD’S LARGEST UNMINED GOLDMINE, RUSSIA’S SUKHOI LOG

by John Helmer, Moscow 
  @bears_with

All that glisters isn’t gold. But as all Russian goldminers know, when it comes to the reputation of the mining company, its chief executive,  and its share price, glister will do just as well. That has been the view of Suleiman Kerimov (lead image, right) whose Polyus is Russia’s most important goldmining company.  

Glister has been Kerimov’s lucky colour; his longtime chief executive Pavel Grachev (left), the same. Through one of his children, Kerimov owns and controls Polyus.  Grachev does everything Kerimov senior has been telling him to do since 1998, twenty-two years ago.  Last month Kerimov senior told Kerimov junior to tell Grachev to start advertising Sukhoi Log (Russian for “Dry Gulch”), an underground store of gold in southeastern Siberia whose ownership has been fiercely fought over by international and Russian mining companies since 1992.

Unmined still, but firmly in Papa Kerimov’s possession, Sukhoi Log’s prospective value has more than doubled Polyus’s share price this year – and double the share price gain of Newmont of the US; triple that of Barrick of Canada, the international leaders of the gold world.  

But that’s on the Moscow stock market this year. Kerimov and Grachev are hoping Sukhoi Log will now draw US sharebuyers with an acceleration in annual gold production and  future, life of mine output which is also much faster than Newmont and Barrick.

Kerimov’s glister has always been mistaken for gold at the Financial Times,  so Grachev started his campaign there on October 22.   He then gave an expansive interview in Kommersant last Tuesday.

When we last reported on Grachev,  it was only to spell his name in the caption under an official photograph of the board of directors of Polyus Gold,  when it passed out of one pair of oligarch hands, Mikhail Prokhorov’s, into Kerimov’s. That was in 2014.  By then the market capitalisation was $9.5 billion,  down from its peak of $13 billion in December 2010. Renamed Polyus instead of Polyus Gold in 2016, this week the company is worth the rouble equivalent of $29 billion. Its share price on the Moscow Stock Exchange (MOEX, formerly MICEX) has jumped by 124% in the year to date.

The value of this goldminer has not always reflected the price of gold or the value of the gold reserves Polyus owns, mines, or is planning to mine. The company has often been calculated to be worth what the market thinks of Kerimov, Prokhorov, or before him another Russian oligarch, Vladimir Potanin. Grachev’s new job this week, as it has always been his job, is to rub the oligarch glister off the company, and turn its share price into true gold. As if Kerimov wasn’t there.  

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MALCOLM TURNBULL’S RUSSIA STORY – EX-PRIME MINISTER OF AUSTRALIA TRIES NEW COMEBACK WITH OLD BRAIN

by John Helmer, Moscow
  @bears_with

Malcolm Turnbull is the most intelligent man ever to become Australian prime minister, and to have left office more stupid than he began. Among the governments south of the Equator, this is without precedent. Since Turnbull served as head of government for only three years, 2015 to 2018, when he was 61 to 64 years of age, he has set the medical record for non-traumatic early-onset senescence in the cerebrum; that’s the part of the brain responsible for learning. He didn’t; he can’t.

This week Turnbull has published a book of selections from his life aimed at refreshing his credentials to retake the political power he lost to rivals. His display of the symptoms that caused him to lose it is undiminished.

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HIGH-STAKES GAME OF HIDE AND SEEK AT SULEIMAN KERIMOV’S VILLAS IN CAP D’ANTIBES

By John Helmer, Moscow

 The arrest and indictment of Suleiman Kerimov in Nice last week on charges of tax fraud and money laundering have begun loosening the tongues of international bankers and commodity trade financiers who have done business with Kerimov in the past, and who have been  guests at his Cap d’Antibes villa parties.

They say Kerimov’s wealth is illusory and exaggerated by the press, because his assets are heavily leveraged by bank loans which can be called in by material changes in borrower condition; Kerimov’s arrest may be one of them.

The sources also believe the money for Kerimov’s villa purchases in Cap d’Antibes, which are the target of the French prosecution, originated from Russian state banks.  “The international banks largely dropped Kerimov’s business after 2008 when the share value securing his borrowings collapsed, and he had to sell up,” comments a source who was involved in financing for Kerimov before the crash. “Since then he’s been a dependent of Sberbank.  The Sberbank officials knew he was high risk, and they treated him like a slave. Kerimov had to kiss their feet.”

Investigations in Nice, Moscow and Switzerland, where Kerimov’s asset holdings are managed, confirm that Kerimov’s chief creditors today are the state banks, Sberbank and VTB, run by German Gref and Andrei Kostin. A smaller line of credit has been extended by a third state lender, Gazprombank. The international bankers say they don’t know whether Russian state bankers are also beneficiaries of the villas at Cap d’Antibes.

In Moscow there is nervousness over what Kerimov’s telephone conversations, tapped by  French prosecutors, have revealed already; and what he will admit under interrogation about who may be the owners of the real estate, if not himself.   An international bank source believes the real villa owners aren’t Russian bankers. “They don’t like people like Kerimov,” the source says. “Certainly not [Sberbank chief executive German] Gref and [VTB chief executive Andrei] Kostin. They are independently rich; they don’t need guys like Kerimov. They would not put themselves into Kerimov’s hands. These houses are never worth what the papers are reporting but they are all Kerimov’s stuff.  That’s been his business style. He buys assets in bagloads – bank shares, commodities, real estate. But now the market has turned like it did for his other assets. You can’t sell a house on the Cote d’Azur at the price Kerimov paid. His business is show business. That’s caught up with him now.” (more…)

CANADIAN DRAGON VERSUS RUSSIAN RAIDER – ALEXEI MORDASHOV MEETS HIS MATCH AT COLUMBUS GOLD, OR VICE VERSA

By John Helmer, Moscow

For the first time Canadian mine stock investors say that Russian mining and metals oligarch Alexei Mordashov has run into resistance to his takeover schemes by a combination of share dilution, insider rewards,  and share price manipulation —  tactics which  have succeeded for Mordashov when he acquired the last three Canadian goldminers he took aim at.  

Speaking of the takeover now under way by Mordashov’s London-listed Nordgold for Toronto-listed Columbus Gold, shareholders, analysts, insiders and stock promoters have been discussing on the Canadian Stockhouse bulletin board  what they expect to happen next. A small stakeholder told others on the bullboard in December: “Can’t see any reason Nord does not move quickly on [Columbus Gold]  as it will only get more expensive.”  A few days later, Brien Lundin, a gold stockpicker in the US,  advised his clients to take advantage of the Russian interest:  “I urge you to take advantage of any market-induced weakness to buy the company in advance of the feasibility study.”  Another bullboard entry warned on February 9: “Pretty obvious they’re going to take us out, put those 5 million Z’s [gold reserves] in their portfolio, and continue on with their growth plan. We’re the proverbial low hanging fruit, it’s now just a matter of price.”

The next day another commentator warned: “As for [Columbus Gold].. NORD has never failed to follow through on eventually taking over a company in which they have picked up a notable minority stake.” He drew the response:  “NORD would definitely like to steal it but they won’t be able to because too many other buyers want it also. So NORD may decide to sell instead at a premium and take their marbles somewhere else where they can get a better deal.” 

The Canadian consensus is that Mordashov is making a raid on Columbus Gold. “What I think we have to watch for is if they low ball us like they don’t want any partners, putz around for a year or so, then sell the whole shooting match to one of the above for a $ billion or better, screwing us out of our fair share. Got to keep a close eye on those Russians…” (more…)

ANOTHER FAKE PRIVATIZATION, ANOTHER LOAN FOR SHARES — SUKHOI LOG, THE BIGGEST GOLDMINE LICENCE IN RUSSIA, GIVEN TO SERGEI CHEMEZOV AND SULEIMAN KERIMOV

 

By John Helmer, Moscow

Gold reserves are handy in wartime, especially when your enemies are the United States Government and the US dollar banking system operating worldwide.  

So, since the war to overthrow President Vladimir Putin began in 2014, the Central Bank of Russia has accelerated its purchases of gold bullion by more than double, becoming the largest gold buyer among the world’s central banks, and the holder of the sixth largest gold reserve.  Roughly half the volume of this gold has been bought by the Central Bank from Russian goldmines.

Putin has also decided to start digging out Sukhoi Log, in Irkutsk region. That’s the largest unmined gold deposit in Russia, and one of the biggest proven reserves of mineable gold in the world.

For the past quarter of a century, the Kremlin has been unwilling to decide who, if anybody, will be permitted to mine Sukhoi Log.  That decision was finally made last week, when Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev confirmed the award of the licence to mine Sukhoi Log to a special purpose company formed by Russian Technologies (Rostec, Ростех,  RT) and Polyus Gold. Together, they are paying Rb9.406 billion (about $162 million) for the licence.  “According to the Governmental order affirming the results of the auction, SL Gold Limited Liability Company…, a company established by JSC Polyus and LLC RT Business Development [Rostec], will be granted the right to develop Sukhoi Log for the exploration works and extraction of gold and silver…Subject to obtaining the license, the Company intends to conduct additional exploration works and a feasibility study, which is expected to last for approximately three to four years, supported by international mining and engineering consultants. Based on the results of that study, the Company will evaluate options to initiate construction activities at the Sukhoi Log.”

What this means is that Rostec and Polyus Gold are promising to take up to four years to re-read the mountain of geological, metallurgical and engineering studies, reports and plans compiled on Sukhoi Log for 25 years  by every major Russian and international mine consultancy, including the leading goldminers of Canada, Australia, South Africa, and the UK. Then, when the re-reading is done, Rostec and Polyus Gold aren’t promising to produce any gold at all. On this undertaking, they have borrowed state bank cash in order to pay the state budget a licence fee. This looks like a privatization, but it is a phantom. (more…)

ALEXEI MORDASHOV PREPARES $400 MILLION DOLLAR TAKEOVER OF CANADIAN GOLDMINER – HIT AND RUN FOR KREMLIN FOREIGN INVESTMENT BAN

By John Helmer, Moscow

Alexei Mordashov (lead image, top left), the mining and metals oligarch, promised President Vladimir Putin (centre) that in future he would stick to investing in Russia. “We did a great deal of work abroad,” he told  the President, “but came to the conclusion that our future lies primarily in Russia, in the Russian market, and our production here is most efficient. We sold the North American division and are focusing almost entirely on our Russian assets.” That was on January 19, 2015.

Mordashov was back in front of Putin at the Kremlin this week, telling him on December 19: “I would also like to ask you not to reduce the level of your cooperation.”  What Mordashov didn’t tell Putin was how much he has invested in Canadian goldmining over the past year, and how much more, according to Russian and Canadian sources,  he is planning to invest next year. That may come to $400 million if a gold prospect in French Guiana, owned by a Canadian mining company, turns out to be El Dorado when a report Mordashov is preparing on the exploration results and gold value is due to be released next March.  (more…)

THIS IS MOSCOW CALLING! PARDON THE INTERRUPTION

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By John Helmer, Moscow

If you can read this, you missed an attack on this website. It started, coincidentally, when the Moscow office day commenced. The general commanding our rocket forces forbids us to reveal  the method of attack and  how it was intercepted and zapped, restoring our coverage of stories like this one on Alexei Mordashov’s takeover of the goldminer Northquest. Click

Not that he and Nordgold would have anything to do with this morning’s attack on our website. But if  he and the Nordgold raiders try to attack Toronto-listed Columbus Gold, their next target according to a leading Canadian gold market source, we are ready.  “The Canadian rules need to change,” the source recommends, “so that the resisting minority shareholders get to put forward their own third-party valuation as a comparison to the one done by the newly formed Board of the acquirer.  This would at least give a high and low valuation which could be subject to mediation.”

GOLDFINGER, LIGHT FINGER — ALEXEI MORDASHOV TAKES ANOTHER CANADIAN GOLDMINE ON THE CHEAP

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By John Helmer, Moscow

In the criminal fraternity it’s believed that light fingers are a juvenile condition it’s best for the practicioner to grow out of when more serious property transfers are in contemplation.

Alexei Mordashov (lead image, right), the Russian steelmaker and goldminer, is a quick learner and a grown-up. With a net worth currently estimated at over $15 billion from Severstal, Nordgold, and other Russian businesses, his record of asset buying has more often been one of paying too much, and losing money, especially in the US. Last month, however, in litigation in Ontario, Canada, he was charged by shareholders of the gold prospector Northquest Limited,   with manipulation of the company’s executives and board in order to take over the company’s gold for a steal.

The resisting shareholders who took their case to the Ontario Superior Court, are veteran geologists with three decades of experience of gold deposits in the Nunavut territory of  northeastern Canada,  which are Mordashov’s target.  The resisters claim Mordashov’s goldmine holding Nordgold  has taken over Northquest at a fraction of its real value.  “In our view,” Brian Randa, one of the dissenting shareholders, told the court in October, according to the court records, “the valuation  [of Northquest’s gold prospects] is not worth the paper it is written on. They [Nordgold]  mispresented the true potential of this project by comparing the project to those with much less potential [in gold resources],  and by  excluding from consideration a vast tract of the licence area.  They tricked the shareholders into tendering [their shares at a low price].  The timing of this series of events was deliberately made to happen before the astonishing major Howitzer anomaly was further explored in the summer of 2016.”

Low-balling is a takeover tactic Nordgold has been accused of by Canadian goldmine shareholders at High River Gold and Crew Gold for many years.  Mordashov won those battles; for details, read this and this. In those cases, resisting shareholders claimed the light fingers went into Mordashov’s pockets. The Canadian courts and the Ontario regulator didn’t agree. (more…)

THE BLUE SKY POTENTIAL OF CHUKOTKA — WHY IS STATE MONEY BEING WAGERED ON TIGERS REALM COAL?

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By John Helmer, Moscow

Tiger is an unlucky brand-name for Russian investment. The record of Mikhail Prokhorov and Maxim Finsky in trying, and failing three times over to sell shares in White Tiger Gold on the Toronto Stock Exchange explains. So why is the Russian Direct Investment Fund, a state development bank, betting on a small Australian-listed coking coal company in Chukotka called Tigers Realm Coal?

The feareasternmost province of Russia, Chukotka makes a good case for ample underground resources to be mined, so long as costs of digging and shipping to China stay low; and demand recovers. Perish the thought that Tigers Realm Coal is an insider manipulation with the aim of pumping the share price, then dumping the project by several names associated with such scheming in the past.
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WHERE TO GO WHEN PETER HAMBRO AND PAVEL MASLOVSKY RUN OUT OF CASH? PETROPAVLOVSK BEGS FOR RUSSIAN STATE BANK BAILOUT

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By John Helmer, Moscow

Petropavlovsk Plc has almost run out of tricks.

Advertisements placed at the start of this month in the London papers that the goldminer may be on the receiving end of a Russian-funded bailout lifted the London Stock Exchange share price for less than 24 hours. The market capitalization has since continued on its trajectory towards worthlessness. Kirill Androsov of Altera Capital, the door-opener for a fresh Sberbank financing, is refusing to say which way the door is swinging. According to a leading London mine financier, “Petropavlovsk’s assets just don’t have any value. Low grade and tough metallurgy. Gentle euthanasia is the best option.”
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POLYUS GOLD AND THE DUMB MONEY EFFECT – HOW SULEIMAN KERIMOV PROVES HE’S DUMBER THAN MIKHAIL PROKHOROV

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By John Helmer, Moscow

It can be no surprise, not even to Russian dunces, that Suleiman Kerimov, the only Russian oligarch and senator of the Russian parliament who has never answered a question in public, has been trying to cash out of Polyus Gold, and can find no takers. Especially not at the current price of gold.

Why then would Polyus Gold report this week that it has discovered that Natalka, in Magadan, the largest new goldmining project in Russia, has vastly less gold in reserve and resource than it has revealed to shareholders before? Why reveal that the loss of future gold sale revenues just announced would be worth $52 billion at the current gold price?

Answer: having no alternative to recover his capital from Polyus Gold by selling out, Kerimov is sacrificing market capitalization of his company stake, and by halting the expenditure of cash on the Natalka mine, Kerimov has decided to put the money into his own pocket as dividends.
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PROKHOROV SLIPS THE TORONTO STOCK EXCHANGE A MICKEY FINN, ER, MAKE THAT A MAXIE FINN

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By John Helmer, Moscow

It was a specialty of the Chicago Irish at the turn of the 20th century. A Mickey Finn was a drug that was slipped into your cocktail without your knowing, in order to incapacitate you. When you came to, the only thing you knew was that you were missing your valuables. The eponymous Mickey Finn was a pickpocket who built his capital into a thriving business as the proprietor of the Lone Star Saloon and Palm Garden on the corner of Dearborn and Harrison Streets. (It’s a Starbucks nowadays. The girls Mickey used as lures now drink skinny lattes.)

Maxie Finn, aka Maxim Finsky (left front), is eponymous too. He is a childhood friend of Mikhail Prokhorov (left back), and he has been employed by him to buy assets on the cheap; consolidate them into special purpose vehicles which the two of them then try to resell. They’ve had one signal success. That was when Prokhorov jointly controlled Norilsk Nickel, Russia’s largest mining company, with Vladimir Potanin. Finsky was employed to spend Norilsk Nickel’s money on buying goldmining assets at premium prices before they were spun off and separately listed as Polyus Gold. Finsky spent foolishly, or worse, read this. But no matter. The rise of the price of gold drove the share price of Polyus Gold ten times and more above the amount paid for its assets. For the ups and downs in that decade-long story, read here.
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THE MAN IN THE MOON – MIKHAIL PROKHOROV’S INTERGEO FAILS IN TORONTO FOR THE SECOND TIME

By John Helmer, Moscow

At a physicists’ teaparty, Albert Einstein once asked Niels Bohr whether the two of them should accept that “the moon does not exist if nobody is looking at it.” Bohr’s reply was that, hard as Einstein might try, so long as the moon was accompanied by noone, Einstein’s proof would be hard to come by.

As a businessman selling off visible assets for cash in the bank, Mikhail Prokhorov is rapidly becoming just such an unprovable moon. So Einstein to Bohr, he’s agreed with his trusted friend and manager, Dmitry Razumov, managing director of the Onexim holding in Moscow, to issue a public strategy statement and give the former’s lunacy more credibility. According to Razumov, the two of them speak once every two or three weeks, depending on Prokhorov’s phases. “He is completely away from the daily management of work items. He did not meet with the management; he isn’t included in the [Onexim] board of directors. However, he is still the main beneficiary. We are meeting relatively regularly to discuss politics and the economy.” Based on paper values, and before counting the impact of commodity price falls, Razumov says Onexim is worth between $13 billion and $15 billion. Here is the April 24 interview.
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WHITE TIGER GOLD – MINIMUM FOR MAXIM, FIN DE FINSKY

By John Helmer, Moscow

Oligarch ownership hasn’t given Russian goldmines a good name, or at least not a stable one. So if you take the 5-year view and judge that the gold price has peaked, while the cost of developing new mines is going up, the grades going down, you don’t need to be an oligarch with a short attention span like Mikhail Prokhorov, to figure out that the prudent investment direction is the exit.

When Prokhorov sold his 37.78% stake in Polyus Gold last month for $3.6 billion, his Onexim holding announced: “in light of …our view of the balance between the company’s achievements and its potential, we made the decision that the time had come for Onexim Group to sell and realize its profit.” On the 5-year view there have value peaks on paper, but ultimately no profit. Prokhorov has also failed to find an international goldminer willing to buy the assets. As Russian dealmaking goes, selling to Suleiman Kerimov, or to his stand-ins, as Prokhorov has announced, is a nothing more than a state bank bailout.
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CONCERT-PARTY TAKEOVER OF POLYUS GOLD AND POLYMETAL – THE MORE SILENT ZELIMKHAN MUTSOEV AND GAVRIIL YUSHVAEV REMAIN ON THE PURCHASE PRICE, THE MORE OBVIOUS THEY ARE IN LEAGUE WITH SULEIMAN KERIMOV

By John Helmer, Moscow

Do snaps of businessmen playing cards, or dancing the lezginka together, prove they are in a concert-party relationship which is an unauthorized way of making money, according to Rule 9 of the Takeover Code for companies listed on the London Stock Exchange — if they keep it secret from other shareholders?

Zelimkhan Mutsoev (left and centre, upper and lower images), Gavriil Yushvaev (right, right) and Suleiman Kerimov (centre, left) were all born in the Caucasus within a decade of each other. As grown-ups they have taken different career paths, and they have made large sums of money independently. Two of them, Mutsoev and Kerimov, have also acted together to take over Russia’s second potash producer Silvinit, merge it with the leader Uralkali, and create a Russian potash monopoly. The Federal Antimonopoly Service found no infraction of Russian rules in that. But if they are now trying the same thing to acquire Mikhail Prokhorov’s 38% stake in Polyus Gold, Russia’s leading goldminer, and then merge it with Polymetal, the UK rules apply because both Polyus Gold and Polymetal are premium listings on the LSE.
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ALEXEI MORDASHOV TAKES HIGH RIVER GOLD BECAUSE THE ODOUR OF MONEY IS SWEETER THAN NORD GOLD SHARES

By John Helmer, Moscow

It has taken Alexei Mordashov (image lower right) three and a half years to persuade shareholders of Toronto-listed High River Gold (HRG) to accept his takeover of the company. That’s the longest foreign defence against a Russian takeover in the oligarch record-book. But when the count was completed on December 11, Mordashov’s victory was still a close-run thing. What has happened is that most of the holdout shareholders opted to take cash for their shares, and abandon the business, rather than accept a swap of their HRG shares for shares of Mordashov’s larger goldmine holding, London-listed Nord Gold.

Mordashov has the company he wanted, but not with a vote of confidence in his or his goldmining future. In the process, not a single Canadian court, Canadian stock market regulator, nor even a Canadian newspaper reporter took the side of the minority shareholders. They have included Sprott Asset Management, one of Canada’s leading independent fund managers; according to its latest performance sheet, its investments in gold and precious metals stocks have been bleeding red for the year to date, the full year, and indeed for the past three years.
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YOU CAN LEAD A HORSE… ALEXEI MORDASHOV’S TAKEOVER OF HIGH RIVER GOLD STOPS SHORT

By John Helmer, Moscow

The deadline for Canadian shareholders to accept or reject Alexei Mordashov’s takeover terms for High River Gold (HRG) is fixed for next Tuesday, November 27. The latest count to be released to the market suggests he will fail because the holdout shareholders are convinced the offer price is too low. The price point isn’t news. The shareholder count may be.

According to Chris Charlwood, one of the coordinators of the HRG minorities, “we have collected confirmations from shareholders with approximately 90.2 million shares (10.73% of total HRG shares and 43% of the minorities rremaining) that they will not tender to Nord Gold’s offer. This includes shares owned in funds managed by Eric Sprott (HRG’s largest minority shareholder). Nord Gold would have needed 90% of minority to tender to the current offer in order to squeeze the rest out. With 43% of the minority indicating they will not tender, this should prevent this from happening on the Nov. 27th expiry date.”
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PATSY’S GOT BALLS — MORDASHOV TO PULL HIS PRICE FOR HIGH RIVER GOLD UPWARD, OR POCKET HIS OFFER ALTOGETHER

By John Helmer, Moscow

The Canadian valuer hired to provide an independent valuation of High River Gold (HRG) for Nord Gold’s takeover offer appears to be recommending a higher price than Alexei Mordashov, owner of Nord Gold and 75% shareholder of HRG, wants to pay, leaving the takeover in limbo.

Paradigm Capital’s research department, headed by Daniel Kim of Toronto, has been working on the valuation since July, when Nord Gold announced a share swap or cash purchase equivalent to C$1.40 per share of HRG. That valued HRG at C$1.18 billion. To consolidate the minority shareholders, and absorb HRG entirely into Nord Gold – with the aim of lifting the latter’s struggling share price and worsening financial performance– Mordashov with 75% of the HRG shares in hand needs to have his bid accepted by another 15%. If he can reach or cross the 90% stake threshold, under Canadian takeover rules the remaining shareholders can be squeezed out by a mandatory buyout. As told in this sequence, the opposition to Mordashov has been successful so far in denying him the prize.
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NORD GOLD HIDES IN PLAIN SIGHT FROM HIGH RIVER GOLD

By John Helmer, Moscow

It takes a Russian to know how to build a Potemkin village, and hide behind it. It takes Alexei Mordashov to answer questions through a telephone number that rings in Amsterdam only to be relayed to a Moscow office, where the person in charge hangs up the receiver. That’s a false front that doesn’t deserve Count Potemkin’s name tag.

Mordashov is the owner of Nord Gold, the struggling goldminer spun out of the Severstal steel group. Since July 18, Nord Gold has been tabling an offer to buy out the minority shareholders of Toronto-listed High River Gold (HRG), the richest of the assets in the Nord Gold portfolio. Tabling isn’t quite what has happened. That’s because there won’t be an official offer to buy the remaining HRG shares until a purportedly independent valuation of HRG is completed and the share price offer put into a circular. That is a paper which Mordashov is promising to despatch to the hold-out HRG shareholders sometime soon. For the July 18 proposal, and the reaction of the market, read this.
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WHEN THE CASH COW IS KICKING THE BUCKET, OLIGARCHS LOSE THEIR LIQUIDITY – HOW BROKE IS SULEIMAN KERIMOV?

By John Helmer, Moscow

Swiss bankers aren’t famous for their sense of humour. So it will come as no surprise that the Gnomes of Zurich were serious when they recently sent a questionnaire to 22 of the richest crooks and liars in Russia, asking them for their assessment of the prospects for Russian wealth management — and printed their answers with a straight face. According to UBS, 55% of their 22-person sample say corruption is the biggest problem they currently have in increasing (or keeping) their wealth; well ahead of macro-economic problems like falling demand; global problems like the collapse of commodity prices and producer share prices; and domestic commercial problems like the weakening rouble, rising costs, and dwindling bank credit.

The twenty-two made the UBS sample if they were domiciled in Russia and admitted to a net worth of at least $50 million apiece. One in 10 of the sample (that’s two) “belong to families worth between $250 million and $500 million, with one family worth in excess of half a billion dollars.” Of the remaining 20, 13 reported a family fortune of between $50 million and $100 million. Three put themselves in the wealth bracket between $100 million and $250 million. Richer crooks and liars may have returned the UBS questionnaire unanswered. But those responding acknowledged that when it comes to running their businesses and making money, they don’t give a fig for accountability, transparency, or the conventional standards of corporate governance. According to the report, “the percentage of respondents adhering to a corporate governance code has fallen substantially to just 23% [five]. Of the remainder, 41% say they are in the process of implementing a code, but 36% simply state that they do not comply with any corporate governance code.”
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THE CANADIAN RESISTANCE AT HIGH RIVER GOLD PUSHES BACK AT ALEXEI MORDASHOV

By John Helmer, Moscow

There is a unique protection in the Ontario Business Corporations Act which may have Alexei Mordashov’s name written all over it. It’s called the oppression remedy.

What this does is to allow minority shareholders to go to court to challenge the votes and decisions of majority or control shareholders in a Canadian company, when the latter act in a way that is prejudicial, disadvantageous, or unfair to the former. The evidence and standard of unfairness can be decided by a court-ordered investigation of the company’s affairs and of the “reasonable expectations” of the shareholders. Such an investigation is the first thing a Canadian judge can do, before ruling on unfairness. What’s more, an applicant shareholder needs to convince the investigators, not of evidence of fraud or dishonesty, but of the “appearance” that the board of directors, control shareholders, or company management “unfairly disregard” the interests of the minority.
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LOCK-UP OR STICK-UP – ALEXEI MORDASHOV TRIES TO FINISH OFF THE CANADIAN RESISTANCE

By John Helmer, Moscow

You don’t have to be Mr Plod to suspect that Noddy isn’t playing fair.

More than half the Canadians who hold shares in High River Gold (HRG:CN), and who have resisted Alexei Mordashov’s buyout offers in the past, think he’s low-balling them again. Having driven up the share price to C$1.43, three cents over Mordashov’s latest offer price for his takeover of HRG, the sentiment in the share market is against Mordashov. Or is it?

On July 18 Nordgold (NORD:LI), which already owns about 75% of HRG, announced that it wants to buy the rest. Nordgold is listed on the London Stock Exchange; HRG on the Toronto Exchange. The former has a market capitalization of US$1.71 billion after listing in Moscow and London between December 2011 and January 2012. Since then it has lost more than 60% of its value.
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ABRAMOVICH DOES IT AGAIN: TAKES $69 MILLION IN PUBLIC SHAREHOLDER MONEY FOR ONE OF HIS POCKET ASSETS — NUMIS SECURITIES LEADS THE CHEERS

By John Helmer, Moscow

What an enterprising lad! While Highland Gold, a London-listed public stockholding company, was looking in a forward direction, last Friday Roman Abramovich sold it a gold and silver prospect called Klen for the greater part of which he had paid $103,774 eighteen months earlier. Abramovich has now relieved Highland Gold of $69 million of its hard-earned money for this exchange. In the interval, since Abramovich spent peanuts on prospecting , his rate of return was 34% per month, 610% overall.

This, at least, is one arithmetic of what has happened. Abramovich’s spokesman, John Mann, says there is another truer one, although one of the crucial numbers in that calculation is missing. Highland Gold’s spokesman, Dmitry Yakushkin, isn’t providing that number. Nor is he explaining how Highland Gold counts the reserves and resources which Abramovich has just sold it.
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INTERGEO TRIES SPELL-BINDING, SPELL-CHECK AND OTHER MAGIC TRICKS, AS MAXIM FINSKY DEFAULTS ON $75 MILLION OF DEUTSCHE BANK OBLIGATIONS

By John Helmer, Moscow

Not even the epitome of Canadian accountability and compliance, Dudley Do-Right, can remember a case when a man who has just defaulted on bank obligations of almost $75 million been allowed to sell promissory notes on his next adventure on the Toronto Stock Exchange. If Dudley is mistaken, and if Maxim Finsky succeeds in launching the Intergeo initial public offering, the market magic spellbinder who will deserve the credit is Corey Copeland (image).

That’s not a dunce’s hat on his head. With degrees from the University of Toronto and Harvard University, Copeland has been the spokesman for large metal and mining companies in the past, like Alcan, Rio Tinto, and Billiton. As reported here, Copeland is the front man for the Intergeo preliminary prospectus issued to the Toronto market on May 14. Company documents say that for his expertise, Intergeo is paying Copeland salary and perks this year of C$522,189. That includes a bonus for his good works last year of C$94,000. If the Intergeo shares make it to market in a few days’ time, he will also be entitled to share options at the IPO price for 0.15% of the total share issue.
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MAXIM FINSKY’S WHITE TIGER GOLD COLLAPSES — BULL TRAP OR CLAP TRAP?

By John Helmer, Moscow

White Tiger Gold (WTG) was supposed to be the curtain-raiser on the Canadian stock market for Mikhail Prokhorov and Maxim Finsky, his childhood playmate, to sell shares in their collection of little known gold and other mineral prospects and mining licences in Russia. That collection is called Intergeo, and it cost Prokhorov and Finsky play money.

At one time, Prokhorov’s former shareholding partner in Norilsk Nickel, Vladimir Potanin, accused him and Finsky of filling Intergeo with stolen goods—licences originally acquired for Norilsk Nickel and with the latter’s money. That case never went to court because Prokhorov and Potanin managed to settle between themselves which side each would get out of the bed they had shared together. Finsky got out too on Prokhorov’s side, and became boss of Intergeo.
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NO-RISK LOVEMAKING WHEN MORGAN STANLEY PROSTRATES ITSELF TO ALEXEI MORDASHOV

By John Helmer, Moscow

In the memoirs of the great courtesans, much fondness is expressed toward the size of their patrons’ pockets, but never the size (or lack of it) of their male members. Morgan Stanley lacks that kind of discretion.

If you read the report issued on February 17 by the investment bank’s Moscow and London branches on Alexei Mordashov’s Nord Gold, the place to start is below the waist, as it were. “In the next 3 months,” runs the small print of the required US regulatory disclosures, “Morgan Stanley expects to receive or intends to seek compensation for investment banking services from…Nordgold…Within the last 12 months, Morgan Stanley has provided or is providing investment banking services to, or has an investment banking client relationship with …Nordgold…Within the last 12 months, Morgan Stanley has either provided or is providing non-investment banking, securities-related services to and/or in the past has entered into an agreement to provide services or has a client relationship with… Nordgold.
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THIS MAN IS BAD FOR MIKHAIL PROKHOROV’S HEALTH — THE CHINA GOLD STANDARD HAS BECOME HIGH-RISK FOR RUSSIAN GOLDMINER SHARE PRICES

By John Helmer, Moscow

The future for Russian goldmining companies this year is bleak — even if the price of gold goes up.

The major Russian goldminers are all expected to fail to reach their mine output targets, so they will be able to sell less gold at what are expected to be higher costs. But there’s worse. In order to qualify for listing on the London Stock Exchange (LSE), Polyus Gold — the property at present of Mikhail Prokhorov and Suleiman Kerimov and Russia’s leading goldminer — will have to sell their shares. This isn’t the first occasion in which those two have felled the share price by signalling their desire to sell.
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ROTHSCHILD EXPOSES GOLDMINING DEAL FOR FAKE OR FEINT; DERIPASKA’S ATTEMPT TO SELL RUSAL TO ALCOA ALSO EXPOSED

By John Helmer, Moscow

Nathaniel Rothschild’s (centre) libel lawsuit against the Daily Mail and Associated Newspapers, due to commence on January 23 in the High Court in London, is now unravelling even more Russian oligarch secrets. As they crack open, so do suspicions of even more inexplicable involvement by Rothschild’s friend, Lord Peter Mandelson, than the lawsuit was intended to stop.

The point on which the entire tale hangs, at least for Rothschild, is that in January 2005, Mandelson was the European Union’s trade commissioner. The events reported by the newspaper in its initial publication, and now in new evidence before the court, suggest that Mandelson was involving himself in Russian business deals which he knew, or should have known, created the appearance of a conflict of interest with his official position.
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MORDASHOV IS JOHNNY APPLESEED, LENDS HIMSELF MONEY, SWAPS SHARES WITH HIMSELF – HIGH RIVER GOLD MINORITIES ASK YUKON REGULATOR TO INVESTIGATE SUCH GENEROSITY

By John Helmer, Moscow

In American legend, Johnny Appleseed is the epitome of self-sacrificing kindness and charity to his fellow man. But he didn’t exactly give away his apple seeds. Johnny was a professional nurseryman – he gave seeds to friends and neighbours for planting in nurseries. The concessionaires and stakeholders then sold the trees and apples for commerce; Johnny kept the land. When he died in 1845, he was reputed to have accumulated an estate of more than 1,200 acres, not counting titles to land he’d forgotten about or lost. When the apple business went bust, Johnny stayed rich; his stakeholders weren’t so fortunate.
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WHEN IS A FREE FLOAT A TOY BALLOON – POLYMETAL’S CONTROL SHAREHOLDERS PREPARE TO LET GO

By John Helmer, Moscow

Let’s hear it for Polymetal’s control shareholders – they have devised a scheme that appears to have fooled much of the Moscow market, but few in the London market. By moving Polymetal to the main board of the London Stock Exchange (LSE), they have camouflaged a free floating share bloc which isn’t, in order to create a better share-price platform to sell out. And that is what is known in the toy balloon business as a prick.
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CANADIAN JUDGE RULES THAT MORDASHOV WAS EVASIVE, GRANTS NORWEGIAN SHAREHOLDERS RIGHT TO NEGOTIATE INCREASE IN CREW GOLD BUYOUT PRICE

By John Helmer, Moscow

A Canadian Supreme Court judge has ruled that Alexei Mordashov rode roughshod over the rights of minority shareholders in Crew Gold, when Mordashov’s gold group completed its takeover of Crew Gold, and paid $4.65 per share to buy up minority shareholders.

Justice Ronald Veale, the senior judge of the Supreme Court of Yukon, the Canadian province where Nord Gold, the Canadian vehicle used to absorb Crew Gold is registered, issued a judgement on October 14. He ruled that a group of Norwegian minority shareholders, led by Jostein Matre, had been unfairly and improperly deprived of their rights to dissent from the buy-out offer.
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AFTERSHOCK OF NORD STREAM EXPLOSIONS RUMBLES WARSAW — POLISH POLITICIANS GO “NUTTERS”

By John Helmer, Moscow
  @bears_with

The Polish government in Warsaw, facing re-election in less than a year, wants all the credit from Washington for their joint operation to sabotage the Nord Stream gas pipelines on the Baltic seabed.

It also wants to intimidate the German chancellor in Berlin, and deter both American and German officials from plotting a takeover by the Polish opposition party, Civic Platform, next year.

Blaming the Russians for the attack is their cover story. Attacking anyone who doesn’t believe it, including Poles and Germans, Warsaw officials and their supporting media claim they are dupes or agents of Russian disinformation.

Their rivals, Civic Platform (PO) politicians trailing the PiS in the polls by seven percentage points,   want Polish voters to think that no credit for the Nord Stream attack should be earned by the ruling Law and Justice (PiS) party. They also want to divert  the Russian counter-attack from Warsaw to Washington.

“Thank you USA” was the first Polish political declaration tweeted hours after the blasts by Radoslaw Sikorski (lead image, left), the PO’s former defence and foreign minister, now a European Parliament deputy. In support and justification,  his old friend and PO ministerial colleague, Roman Giertych, warned Sikorski’s critics: “Would you nutters prefer that the Russians find us guilty?”

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THE BORNHOLM BLOW-UP REPEATS THE BORNHOLM BASH — POLAND ATTACKS GERMANY AND BLAMES RUSSIA

By John Helmer, Moscow
  @bears_with

The military operation on Monday night which fired munitions to blow holes in the Nord Stream I and Nord Stream II pipelines on the Baltic Sea floor, near Bornholm Island,  was executed by the Polish Navy and special forces.

It was aided by the Danish and Swedish military; planned and coordinated with US intelligence and technical support; and approved by the Polish Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki.

The operation is a repeat of the Bornholm Bash operation of April 2021, which attempted to sabotage Russian vessels laying the gas pipes, but ended in ignominious retreat by the Polish forces. That was a direct attack on Russia. This time the attack is targeting the Germans, especially the business and union lobby and the East German voters, with a scheme to blame Moscow for the troubles they already have — and their troubles to come with winter.

Morawiecki is bluffing. “It is a very strange coincidence,” he has announced, “that on the same day that the Baltic Gas Pipeline  opens, someone is most likely committing an act of sabotage. This shows what means the Russians can resort to in order to destabilize Europe. They are to blame for the very high gas prices”.   The truth bubbling up from the seabed at Bornholm is the opposite of what Morawiecki says.

But the political value to Morawiecki, already running for the Polish election in eleven months’ time, is his government’s claim to have solved all of Poland’s needs for gas and electricity through the winter — when he knows that won’t come true.  

Inaugurating the 21-year old Baltic Pipe project from the Norwegian and Danish gas networks, Morawiecki announced: “This gas pipeline is the end of the era of dependence on Russian gas. It is also a gas pipeline of security, sovereignty and freedom not only for Polish, but in the future, also for others…[Opposition Civic Platform leader Donald] Tusk’s government preferred Russian gas. They wanted to conclude a deal with the Russians even by 2045…thanks to the Baltic Pipe, extraction from Polish deposits,  LNG supply from the USA and Qatar, as well as interconnection with its neighbours, Poland is now secured in terms of gas supplies.”

Civic Platform’s former defence and foreign minister Radek Sikorski also celebrated the Bornholm Blow-up. “As we say in Polish, a small thing, but so much joy”.  “Thank you USA,” Sikorski added,   diverting the credit for the operation, away from domestic rival Morawiecki to President Joseph Biden; he had publicly threatened to sabotage the line in February.  Biden’s ambassador in Warsaw is also backing Sikorski’s Civic Platform party to replace  Morawiecki next year.  

The attack not only escalates the Polish election campaign. It also continues the Morawiecki government’s plan to attack Germany, first by reviving the reparations claim for the invasion and occupation of 1939-45;  and second, by targeting alleged German complicity, corruption,  and appeasement in the Russian scheme to rule Europe at Poland’s expense. .

“The appeasement policy towards Putin”, announced PISM, the official government think tank in Warsaw in June,  “is part of an American attempt to free itself from its obligations of maintaining peace in Europe. The bargain is that Americans will allow Putin to finish building the Nord Stream 2 pipeline in exchange for Putin’s commitment not use it to blackmail Eastern Europe. Sounds convincing? Sounds like something you heard before? It’s not without reason that Winston Churchill commented on the American decision-making process: ‘Americans can always be trusted to do the right thing, once all other possibilities have been exhausted.’ However, by pursuing such a policy now, the Biden administration takes even more responsibility for the security of Europe, including Ukraine, which is the stake for subsequent American mistakes.”

“Where does this place Poland? Almost 18 years ago the Federal Republic of Germany, our European ally, decided to prioritize its own business interests with Putin’s Russia over solidarity and cooperation with allies in Central Europe. It was a wrong decision to make and all Polish governments – regardless of political differences – communicated this clearly and forcefully to Berlin. But since Putin succeeded in corrupting the German elite and already decided to pay the price of infamy, ignoring the Polish objections was the only strategy Germany was left with.”

The explosions at Bornholm are the new Polish strike for war in Europe against Chancellor Olaf Scholz. So far the Chancellery in Berlin is silent, tellingly.

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LEMONS, MIMOSAS, AND STALIN’S SHOVEL

By John Helmer, Moscow
  @bears_with

The only Russian leader in a thousand years who was a genuine gardener and who allowed himself to be recorded with a shovel in his hand was Joseph Stalin (lead image, mid-1930s). Compared to Stalin, the honouring of the new British king Charles III as a gardener pales into imitativeness and pretension.   

Stalin cultivated lemon trees and flowering mimosas at his Gagra dacha  by the Black Sea in Abkhazia.  Growing mimosas (acacias) is tricky. No plantsman serving the monarchs in London or at Versailles has made a go of it in four hundred years. Even in the most favourable climates, mimosas – there are almost six hundred varieties of them — are short-lived. They can revive after bushfires; they can go into sudden death for no apparent reason. Russians know nothing of this – they love them for their blossom and scent, and give bouquets of them to celebrate the arrival of spring.

Stalin didn’t attempt the near-impossible, to grow lemons and other fruit in the Moscow climate. That was the sort of thing which the Kremlin noblemen did to impress the tsar and compete in conspicuous affluence with each other. At Kuskovo, now in the eastern district of Moscow, Count Pyotr Sheremetyev built a heated orangerie between 1761 and 1762, where he protected his lemons, pomegranates, peaches, olives, and almonds, baskets of which he would present in mid-winter to the Empress Catherine the Great and many others. The spade work was done by serfs. Sheremetyev beat the French king Louis XIV to the punch – his first orangerie at Versailles wasn’t built until 1763.

Stalin also had a dacha at Kuskovo But he cultivated his lemons and mimosas seventeen hundred  kilometres to the south where they reminded him of home in Georgia. Doing his own spade work wasn’t Stalin showing off, as Charles III does in his gardens, like Louis XIV before him. Stalin’s spade work was what he had done in his youth. It also illustrated his message – “I’m showing you how to work”, he would tell visitors surprised to see him with the shovel.  As to his mimosas, Stalin’s Abkhazian confidante, Akaki Mgeladze, claimed in his memoirs that Stalin intended them as another lesson. “How Muscovites love mimosas, they stand in queues for them” he reportedly told him.  “Think how to grow more to make the Muscovites happy!”

In the new war with the US and its allies in Europe, Stalin’s lessons of the shovel and the mimosas are being re-learned in conditions which Stalin never knew – how to fight the war for survival and at the same time keep everyone happy with flowers on the dining table.

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AND THEN THERE WERE NONE

By John Helmer, Moscow
  @bears_with

Agatha Christie’s whodunit entitled And Then There Were None – the concluding words of the children’s counting rhyme — is reputed to be the world’s best-selling mystery story.    

There’s no mystery now about the war of Europe and North America against Russia; it is the continuation of Germany’s war of 1939-45 and the war aims of the General Staff in Washington since 1943. Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu (left) and President Vladimir Putin (right) both said it plainly enough this week.

There is also no mystery in the decision-making in Moscow of the President and the Defense Minister, the General Staff, and the others; it is the continuation of the Stavka of 1941-45.  

Just because there is no mystery about this, it doesn’t follow that it should be reported publicly, debated in the State Duma, speculated and advertised by bloggers, podcasters, and twitterers.  In war what should not be said cannot be said. When the war ends, then there will be none.  

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RUSSIANS RAISE THEIR GLASSES – THE TOAST IS TO BEATING THE BLOCKADE OF MOSCOW



By John Helmer, Moscow
  @bears_with

Alas and alack for the Berlin Blockade of 1948-49 (Berliner Luftbrücke): those were the days when the Germans waved their salutes against the unification of Germany demilitarised and denazified; and cheered instead for their alliance with the US and British armies to fight another seventy years of war in order to achieve what they and Adolf Hitler hadn’t managed, but which they now hope to achieve under  Olaf Scholtz — the defeat of the Russian Army and the destruction of Russia.

How little the Germans have changed.

But alas and alack — the Blockade now is the one they and the NATO armies aim to enforce against Russia. “We are drawing up a new National Security Strategy,” according to Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock. “We are taking even the most severe scenarios seriously.”  By severe Baerbock means nuclear. The new German generation — she has also declared “now these grandparents, mothers, fathers and their children sit at the kitchen table and discuss rearmament.”  

So, for Russia to survive the continuation of this war, the Germans and their army must be fought and defeated again. That’s the toast of Russian people as they salute the intrepid flyers who are beating the Moscow Blockade.  

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THE INTERNATIONAL ATOMIC ENERGY AGENCY GOES TO WAR — GORILLA RADIO GOES NUCLEAR

By John Helmer, Moscow
  @bears_with

Last week the International Atomic Energy Agency’s (IAEA) board of governors voted to go to war with Russia by a vote of 26 member countries against 9.

China, Vietnam, India, Pakistan, Egypt, Senegal and South Africa voted against war with Russia.  

The IAEA Secretary-General Rafael Grossi (lead image, left) has refused to tell the press whether a simple majority of votes (18) or a super-majority of two-thirds (23) was required by the agency charter for the vote; he also wouldn’t say which countries voted for or against. The United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres then covered up for what had happened by telling the press: “I believe that [IAEA’s] independence that exists and must be preserved is essential. The IAEA cannot be the instrument of parties against other parties.” The IAEA vote for war made a liar of Guterres.

In the IAEA’s 65-year history, Resolution Number 58, the war vote of September 15, 2022,  is the first time the agency has taken one side in a war between member countries when nuclear reactors have either been attacked or threatened with attack. It is also the first time the IAEA has attacked one of its member states, Russia, when its military were attempting to protect and secure a nuclear reactor from attack by another member state, the Ukraine, and its war allies, the US, NATO and the European Union states. The vote followed the first-ever IAEA inspection of a nuclear reactor while it was under active artillery fire and troop assault.

There is a first time for everything but this is the end of the IAEA. On to the scrap heap of good intentions and international treaties, the IAEA is following the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW), and the UN Secretary-General himself.  Listen to this discussion of the past history when the IAEA responded quite differently following the Iranian and Israeli air-bombing attacks on the Iraqi nuclear reactor known as Osirak, and later, the attacks on Pakistan’s nuclear weapons sites.

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INTERNATIONAL ATOMIC ENERGY AGENCY TAKES UKRAINE SIDE IN WAR IN SEPTEMBER 15 VOTE, MAKING UN SECRETARY-GENERAL GUTERRES EITHER A LIAR OR A FOOL

By John Helmer, Moscow
  @bears_with

The International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) decided this week to take the side of Ukraine in the current war; blame Russia for the shelling of the Zaporozhye Nuclear Power Plant (ZNPP); and issue a demand for Russia to surrender the plant to the Kiev regime “to regain full control over all nuclear facilities within Ukraine’s internationally recognized borders, including the Zaporizhzhya Nuclear Power Plant.”      

This is the most dramatic shift by the United Nations (UN) nuclear power regulator in the 65-year history of the organisation based in Vienna.

The terms of the IAEA Resolution Number 58, which were proposed early this week by the Polish and Canadian governors on the agency board, were known in advance by UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres when he spoke by telephone with President Vladimir Putin in the late afternoon of September 14, before the vote was taken. Guterres did not reveal what he already knew would be the IAEA action the next day.  

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THE RUSSIAN SITUATION COMEDY IS NO LYING MATTER – THE JOKE IS ON THE OFFICE OF FOREIGN ASSETS CONTROL

By John Helmer, Moscow
  @bears_with

Never mind that King Solomon said proverbially three thousand years ago, “a merry heart doeth good like a medicine.”  

With seven hundred wives and three hundred concubines, Solomon realized he was the inventor of the situation comedy. If not for the sitcom as his medicine, the bodily and psychological stress Old Solly had to endure in the bedroom would have killed him long before he made it to his death bed at eighty years of age,  after ruling his kingdom for forty of them.

After the British sitcom died in the 1990s, the subsequent stress has not only killed very large numbers of ordinary people. It has culminated today in a system of rule according to which a comic king in Buckingham Palace must now manage the first prime minister in Westminster  history to be her own joke.

Even the Norwegians, the unfunniest people in Europe, have acknowledged that the only way to attract the British as tourists, was to pay John Cleese of Monty Python and Fawlty Towers to make them laugh at Norway itself.   This has been a bigger success for the locals than for the visitors, boosting the fjord boatman’s life expectancy several years ahead of the British tourist’s.  

In fact, Norwegian scientists studying a sample of 54,000 of their countrymen have proved that spending the state budget on public health and social welfare will only work effectively if the population is laughing all the way to the grave. “The cognitive component of the sense of humour is positively associated with survival from mortality related to CVD [cardio-vascular disease] and infections in women and with infection-related mortality in men” – Norwegian doctors reported in 2016. Never mind the Viking English:  the Norwegian point is the same as Solomon’s that “a sense of humour is a health-protecting cognitive coping resource” – especially if you’ve got cancer.  

The Russians understand this better than the Norwegians or the British.  Laughter is an antidote to the war propaganda coming from abroad, as Lexus and Vovan have been demonstrating.   The Russian sitcom is also surviving in its classic form to match the best of the British sitcoms, all now dead – Fawlty Towers (d. 1975), Black Adder (d. 1989), You Rang M’Lord? (d. 1988), Jeeves and Wooster (d. 1990), Oh Dr Beeching! (d.1995), and Thin Blue Line (d. 1996).

The Russian situation comedies, alive and well on TV screens and internet streaming devices across the country, are also increasingly profitable business for their production and broadcast companies – not despite the war but because of it. This has transformed the Russian media industry’s calculation of profitability by removing US and European-made films and television series, as well as advertising revenues from Nestlé, PepsiCo, Mars, and Bayer. In their place powerful  Russian video-on-demand (VOD) streaming platform companies like Yandex (KinoPoisk), MTS (Kion),  Mail.ru (VK), and Ivi (Leonid Boguslavsky, ProfMedia, Baring Vostok)  are now intensifying the competition for audience with traditional television channels and film studios for domestic audiences.  The revenue base of the VOD platforms is less vulnerable to advertisers, more dependent on telecommunications subscriptions.

Russian script writers, cameramen, actors, designers, and directors are now in shorter supply than ever before, and earning more money.  “It’s the Russian New Wave,” claims Olga Filipuk, head of media content for Yandex, the powerful leader of the new film production platforms; its  controlling shareholder and chief executive were sanctioned last year.  

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RUSSIAN AVIATION INDUSTRY CORRECTS YELTSIN YAW – BOEING, AIRBUS DITCHED



By Olga Samofalova, translated and introduced by John Helmer, Moscow
  @bears_with

It was the American humourist Mark Twain who didn’t die in 1897 when it was reported that he had. Twain had thirteen more lively years to go.

The death of the Russian aerospace and aviation industry in the present war is proving to be an even greater exaggeration – and the life to come will be much longer. From the Russian point of view, the death which the sanctions have inflicted is that of the US, European and British offensive against the Soviet-era industry which President Boris Yeltsin (lead image, left) and his advisers encouraged from 1991.

Since 2014, when the sanctions war began, the question of what Moscow would do when the supply of original aircraft components was first threatened, then prohibited, has been answered. The answer began at the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) in 1947 when the first  Supplemental Type Certificate (STC) or Parts Manufacturing Approval (PMA) was issued by Washington officials for aircraft parts or components meeting the airworthiness standards but manufactured by sources which were not the original suppliers.   

China has been quicker to implement this practice; Chinese state and commercial enterprises have been producing PMA components for Boeing and Airbus aircraft in the Chinese airline fleets for many years.  The Russian Transport Ministry has followed suit; in its certification process and airworthiness regulations it has used the abbreviation RMA, Cyrillic for PMA. This process has been accelerating as the sanctions war has escalated.

So has the Russian process of replacing foreign imports entirely.

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FOR WANT OF A NAIL THE KINGDOM WAS LOST – ENGLISH PATHOLOGIST GUY RUTTY FACES CHALLENGE TO THE RELIABILITY OF HIS NOVICHOK EVIDENCE



By John Helmer, Moscow
  @bears_with

The weakest link in the British government’s four-year long story of Russian Novichok assassination operations in the UK – prelude to the current war – is an English medical expert by the name of Guy Rutty (lead image, standing).

A government-appointed pathologist advising the Home Office, police, and county coroners, Rutty is the head of the East Midlands Forensic Pathology Unit in Leicester,  he is the author of a post-mortem report, dated November 29, 2018,  claiming that the only fatality in the history of the Novichok nerve agent (lead image, document), Dawn Sturgess, had died of Novichok poisoning on July 8, 2018. Rutty’s finding was added four months after initial post-mortem results and a coroner’s cremation certificate stopped short of confirming that Novichok had been the cause of her death.

Rutty’s Novichok finding was a state secret for more than two years. It was revealed publicly   by the second government coroner to investigate Sturgess’s death, Dame Heather Hallett, at a public hearing in London on March 30, 2021. In written evidence it was reported that “on 17th July 2018, Professor Guy Rutty MBE, a Home Office Registered Forensic Pathologist conducted an independent post-mortem examination. He was accompanied by Dr Phillip Lumb, also an independent Home Office Registered Forensic Pathologist. Professor Rutty’s Post-Mortem Report of 29th November 2018 records the cause of death as Ia Post cardiac arrest hypoxic brain injury and intracerebral haemorrhage; Ib Novichok toxicity.”  

Hallett, Rutty, Lumb, and others engaged by the government to work on the Novichok case have refused to answer questions about the post-mortem investigations which followed immediately after Sturgess’s death was reported at Salisbury District Hospital; and a cause of death report signed by the Wiltshire Country coroner David Ridley, when Sturgess’s body was released to her family for funeral and cremation on July 30, 2018.  

After another three years, Ridley was replaced as coroner in the case by Hallett in March 2021. Hallett was replaced by Lord Anthony Hughes (lead image, sitting) in March 2022.

The cause-of-death documents remain state secrets. “As you have no formal role in the inquest proceedings,” Hallett’s and Rutty’s spokesman Martin Smith said on May 17, 2021, “it would not be appropriate to provide you with the information that you have requested.” 

Since then official leaks have revealed that Rutty had been despatched by the Home Office in London to take charge of the Sturgess post-mortem, and Lumb ordered not to undertake an autopsy or draw conclusions on the cause of Sturgess’s death until Rutty arrived. Why? The sources are not saying whether the two forensic professors differed in their interpretation of the evidence; and if so, whether the published excerpt of Rutty’s report of Novichok poisoning is the full story.   

New developments in the official investigation of Sturgess’s death, now directed by Hughes, have removed the state secrecy cover for Rutty, Lumb, and other medical specialists who attended the post-mortem on July 17, 2018. The appointment by Hughes of a London lawyer, Adam Chapman, to represent Sergei and Yulia Skripal, opens these post-mortem documents to the Skripals, along with the cremation certificate, and related hospital, ambulance and laboratory records. Chapman’s role is “appropriate” – Smith’s term – for the Skripals to cross-examine Rutty and Lumb and add independent expert evidence.

Hughes’s appointment of another lawyer, Emilie Pottle (lead image, top left), to act on behalf of the three Russian military officers accused of the Novichok attack exposes this evidence to testing at the same forensic standard. According to Hughes,  it is Pottle’s “responsibility for ensuring that the inquiry takes all reasonable steps to test the  evidence connecting those Russian nationals to Ms Sturgess’s death.” Pottle’s responsibility is to  cross-examine Rutty and Lumb.

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